Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to share findings from a literature review conducted during ongoing scholarly research on the characteristics of knowledge workers. This paper aims to place knowledge workers in the context of twenty-first century organizations by providing a historical background on the emergence of knowledge work.
Design/methodology/approach – The literature presented in this review is drawn from Google and Google Scholar searches along with the following EBSCO databases: Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, MasterFILE Premier, MasterFILE Select, Communication & Mass Media Complete, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, PsycARTICLES, and PsycINFO.
Findings – Much of the literature review for this project comes from the management field. A predominant theme is that capitalizing on the talents of knowledge workers entails creating a culture with a specific set of characteristics chosen to create an environment in which knowledge workers flourish. A common perception is that the effective management of knowledge workers is hindered by the lack of a cohesive definition. The literature review suggests that a set of characteristics exists specific to knowledge workers.
Social implications – The paper posits an increased awareness of twenty-first century workforce characteristics that need to be taken into consideration as soon as possible by private, public or academic enterprises.
Originality/value – While there is no dispute about the exponential growth of knowledge workers and their critical impact on business, the number of knowledge workers is difficult to gauge due to the lack of a precise definition. Moreover, this workforce is difficult to manage until it is well understood and defined. There is no model to encompass the full spectrum of characteristics that define knowledge workers. A proposed taxonomy of the characteristics of knowledge workers can serve as a springboard for more intensive research into the application of management practices uniquely suited to motivating knowledge workers to superior performance.